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Before heading out to Northern Lights yesterday evening to catch Dr. Dog play, I recruited a friend to join who had never heard their music before. As it went, I myself was not all too familiar – and assured my friend that they were a “good, fun band.” Which is vague enough to either fly or pass by under the radar. In this case, fortunately, my hyper non-committal description of Dr. Dog was on point: Dr. Dog is a good, fun band.
When I’m feeling optimistic about contemporary American music, I feel like people are less interested in over-commercialized or seemingly mass-produced or pretentious elements and gravitate towards the exact opposite. Dr. Dog is an example of no silly gimmicks, despite their growing popularity, (unless, of course, you want to call them out on wearing their own merch and sunglasses indoors). Dr. Dog feels like a band with a genuine, quirky story to tell. I even ran into one of my favorite local rappers who reminded me that people listen to all types of music, when the music is good.
The six gentlemen that make up the indie psychedelic/pop/rock outfit, Dr. Dog, powered through their set like it was a race, taking barely any breathers between songs. Which can be both admirable and unintentionally intense at times, but also reminds me of how outdoor festival sets usually seem to go: one right after another, then boom onto the next act, the next stage. In fact, Dr. Dog would be a band that I would make a point not to miss at a summer festival, and I think seeing them outdoors under the sun would be the ideal.
Regardless, at Northern Lights, people were instantly drawn into the inviting feel-good vibe of Dr. Dog from the moment they took to the stage and packed in close. Their stage set-up was a unique one. They had a prop wall that looked like it was made by a makeshift high school stage crew, with random, wooden painted signs including a list of their stops on tour, mickey mouse and other things to satisfy those with a weak attention span. The stage was also complete with giant, fake stuffed lion and tiger heads, a fake fireplace, a lamp and a fake indoor tree which all contributed towards a homey, warm, laid-back ambiance.
Highlight tracks from their set include kicking the night off with “That Old Black Hole” off their latest album, “The Ark” which was accompanied by pretty sweet rainbow neon lights and the acoustic-driven sing-along-inspired “Lonesome.” Other highlights include “The Breeze,” “Do the Trick”, “Shadow People”, “Jackie Wants A Black Eye,” “Shame, Shame” and the “Old Days.” Following their several-song encore, one of the singers thanked the audience with a raspy voice, clearly shot from the fast-paced evening, marking a successful performance capping off just a hair after 11.
Overall: Go see Dr. Dog if you want to hear a light-hearted, catchy, innovative blend of rock-inspired music from a band with a sincere musicality that reminds you that they AREN’T a college band from your hometown.
Check out Step Up Presents to see what’s coming up next at Northern Lights.